The International Space Station is home to all manner of experiments, being used to test everything from how plants grow in space to how whiskey is affected. The ISS is also home to to various Earth microbes that are being exposed to a microgravity environment, presenting researchers with a chance to study how such an environment affects them. The space agency is performing a three-part study on these microbes, and it might get its final batch in a shipment from space today.
NASA’s researchers are monitoring what microbe types around found floating around in the ISS over a yearly period, with the lengthy periods serving to highlight how things change over time, and to see what kind of new microbes may surface. Samples of these microbes are taken from both the air and ISS surfaces by astronauts, who then ship them back to Earth on a cargo flight.
The study is nearing its end, as NASA is preparing to receive its third microbial sample shipment — it could show up as early as today via SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. The long-running study is called “MT-1.”
Learning about the kind of microbes that have made their way onto the ISS and how they change over time is a vital task aiding NASA in its mission to get humans on Mars. The space agency is looking into how these microbes affect astronaut health, and could lead to methods for reducing their presence. In the future, these microbial investigation methods could also be used to study microbes found in places on Earth, such as hospitals.